Last Friday I visited Casa de la Cultura Afrouruguaya. I try to explore as much of the cultural landscape of the countries I travel to as possible. With a hectic work schedule and maintaining business and familial connections back in the U.S. it gets to be quite difficult.
I connected with a young woman filled with spirit and quiet intensity at the Casa de la Cultura Afrouruguaya. Her name is Mazumbambera. We connected immediately. She is in her early 30’s, the same age as my eldest children. She opened the doors of the Casa de la Cultura Afrouruguaya for me and, immediately, made me feel right at home.
I lived much of my life down south in the U.S. and when you travel the world you find the depth similarities and shared experiences in cultures separated by time and distance, diaspora. Even when I went to West Africa I was able to “fit-in” by practicing the principles taught to me by the elders I grew up around. This same exact dynamic exist even in South America and other parts of the world where you find people of color.
While I was touring the building, I heard a group of Candombe drummers and dancers in the streets below. I rushed to the balcony of the casa. What a sight! The streets of Palermo filled with drummers, dancers, and families slowly flowing in one unified direction.
When I interviewed Mazumbambera she spoke of Candombe as a form of resistence. She really didn’t have to say much more. I got it. I understood. Dance, Music and Art in general are all forms of, not only expression, but also a means by which a people defend their humanity. It is how I became a storyteller, or griot, for those who comprehend.
Mazumbambera gave me a perspective on Candombe that I would not have received if I had sat in my hotel room and only read about it.
It wasn’t long before a young brother named Ferna Nuñez joined us. A man studying with he and his family named Pablo Araya accompanied him. The Kora fascinated them and so you know I had to play for them. There is a recording studio in the Casa de la Cultura Afrouruguaya and Ferna is the main engineer there. They wanted to record some Kora playing. There was no way I was declining this invitation.
We got into the studio and I recorded a few tracks of solo Kora and then we did some Kora and Candombe drumming combinations. It was a little hit and miss at first but I could feel the blend beginning near the end of our first song together.
I posted most of these pictures on Facebook.
It got to be really late for me and so I had to leave. My schedule is really tight but I would love to return to the Casa de la Cultura. Ferna has invited me to meet his father, a Candombe Master. I don’t know how I’m going to make it happen with this schedule but I’ve got to slice off a sliver of time to allow my soul to be fed once again.